Apple’s Story- Reinvention or Evolution?

Apple, Tim Cook, iPhone6, Apple WatchIn case you somehow missed it, Apple released the Apple Watch and the latest iPhone on Tuesday (September 9, 2014). One thing you can depend on with an Apple release is that people, technophiles and others, all are interested to see what features and capabilities the devices have. After all, Apple has a reputation of developing things you did not know you wanted.

This release is more than the devices

This release is Tim Cook’s release. Since taking the helm of Apple, Tim Cook has been watched and asked how he is going to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes. Jobs was was a singular person with his own talents and intelligence. However, for Cook, this may be an uphill climb, no matter how talented or intelligent he is. So, with yesterday’s release, people are watching him. The Wall Street Journal called the Apple product launch “Apple’s Tim Cook Makes Boldest Bets Yet With New iPhone, Apple Watch.” The tone of the article seems largely positive. Yet, a post on the HBR Blog Network asks if Cook is able to step away from Jobs’ influence and lead Apple his way. Another interesting perspective comes from this tweet:

Tim Cook’s Apple is less about ‘i’ and more about ‘we.’

— saschasegan (@saschasegan) September 10, 2014

Time may tell if Cook pulled it off. Jobs was larger than life and it may be how Cook creates his own perspective and, thus, his stamp on Apple that defines the direction, innovation and culture.

And, of course, the devices…

Apple always has an hard act to follow as its history is chock full of innovative products that revolutionized people’s use of computers. Functionality has never been enough for Apple. The design is a key element as well. In essence, the device must do amazing things and look good (even beautiful) while doing it. As many journalists and blogggers have pointed out, Apple was not the first to create a smartphone or a smartwatch. The question for this week’s launch is, “did Apple bring these devices to a whole new level?” The real innovation here may not be the smartphone or even the watch. It might be Apple Pay. This e-commerce capability enables users to put their wallet on their smartphones and there are a number of stores ready to accept payment.

But is this a reinvention or an evolutionary step?

For those watching Apple with the expectation that something uber-new is coming, there may disappointment. If you read the comments on some of the blogs, you would wonder how Apple has any customers at all but that is probably hyperbole. Apple is an established company with a reputation of creating cool and beautiful products. With Tim Cook as CEO leading his first big launch, there are doubters and avid fans. Apple could focus on smaller innovations rather than whole new classes of products. Apple could be setting the stage for something completely new and wonderful.

Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and add your insights and expertise about whether Apple is reinventing or evolving.

What is your initial impression of Apple’s latest launch?

 How significant is it that the watch is named “Apple Watch” rather the “iWatch”?

How does Tim Cook step out of Steve Jobs’ shadow and maintain Apple as an innovative company?

Apple has history of being innovative. How does this affect people’s perceptions of Apple’s new products?


Navigating the Challenges of Talent Management in 2014

talent management, human resources, HR, navigating challengesGlobally there are some interesting challenges for talent management emerging as we enter the last half of 2014. Deloitte’s 2014 Human Capital Trends survey reports and examines what organizations are facing as they develop their employees. Human resources is being urged to rethink their position as “people administration to a focus on people performance.” Thus, they need to increase their understanding of the financials and overal business goals and focus more on advising,training, coaching or other resources employees may need to fulfill their jobs.

What are the overall trends?

Jeff Schwartz, Josh Bersin and Bill Peltser wrote in their summary of the Human Capital Trends survey that the top ten findings are

  1. Leadership, retention, HR skills and talent acquisition are the top global trends in perceived urgency.
  2. Companies report low readiness to respond to the trends
  3. The largest capability gaps are reported in leadership, analytics, reskilling HR, talent acquisition and access and the overwhelmed employee
  4. Leadership is the top priority in developed and growing economies
  5. While global trends are similar around the world, program needs to vary by region
  6. Human capital priorities vary by industry, with one exception: Leadership
  7. “Excellent” HR companies and teams focus more on the urgent human capital trends
  8. Business leaders have less confidence in their organization’s readiness to deal with future trends than HR leaders
  9. HR and talent executives grade themselves a C-minus for overall performance
  10. Companies worldwide plan modest increases in talent and HR investments in 2014

Two things definitely stand out in these trends. The need for leadership and that HR has not been able to respond to the trends effectively.

What is getting in the way?

If you do a search on how people perceive human resources, the results come up with very negative descriptions. In a recent post on the HBR Blog Network, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic outlines what he believes are the reasons for the ineffectiveness by human resources and talent professionals. He cites the following reasons:

  • Being unaware of one’s actual company culture
  • Confusing employee engagement with happiness
  • Ignoring the toxic effect of office politics
  • Misunderstanding leadership
  • Relying on intuition instead of data

In fact, Chamorro-Premuzic calls these reasons toxic. He states that the best way to reduce or eliminate these obstacles is  a “rational, data-driven, and scientifically informed approach.”

Is it that simple?

Misunderstanding leadership appears to be consistent with the findings in the Human Capital Trends survey. Chamorro-Premuzic focuses mainly on how an individual company self-sabotages itself. It is not clear that it is as simple as that. According to the survey, each region weights the human capital priorities differently and human resource and talent professionals, as a whole, do not seem to exhibit readiness to respond. As human resources goes through a transformational process and regions show varying degrees of economic recovery, navigating the challenges of talent management will need both grand and localized solutions.

What do you think? What is the best way to navigate the current challenges of talent management? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and share your insights and expertise.

Since the global recession, has the role of human resources changed? If so, how?

What is the difference between employee engagement and employee happiness?

What are the greatest misunderstandings of leadership?

If you look at only business global trends, how are these misunderstandings of leadership affecting organizations?

What outside (social, political, economic, legal) variables interfere with an organization’s ability to respond to the global tends described in Human Capital Trends survey?





KaizenBiz-What’s On Your Summer Reading List?

KaizenBiz, Tom Asacker, summer reading, booksWith the slower pace of summer days upon us (although some of the KaizenBiz readers are in winter), you might be thinking about those books you have been meaning to read. As for me, I’m looking at a copy of Resonant leadership : Renewing Yourself and Connecting With Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion by Richard Boyatzis. While it is always interesting to read the newest books, sometimes we  have to go back to already-existing list and pick one of those titles.

Speaking of the newest books…

Every year on Small Business Trends, there is a business book contest and the books cover a variety of topics. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Number Sense: How To Use Big Data To Your Advantage by Kaiser Fung- Fung has put a book together that explains  how to look at Big Data and figure out when it is really bad data…or useful

Innovation: How Innovators Think, Act and Change Our World by Kim Chandler McDonald- This is for all the #KaizenFolk who get jazzed about innovation. The books contains interviews with innovators from around the world and shares insights and encouragement.

Culture Without Accountability – WTF? What’s the Fix? by Julie Miller and Brian Bedford- As a big fan of accountability, this book caught my eye. Miller and Bedford put forth a process that supports a company putting an accountability system in place and what could happen without it.

The Business Of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us To Believe by Tom Asacker- Since Tom Asacker is one of our KaizenBiz community members, it is good to highlight his sixth book. If you’ve been with us on the chat, Asacker has shared his insights and perspectives so take a look at his book, get more than 140 characters.and discover your assumptions about leadership and how influence works.

Some suggestions from

This site is a great source of books for anyone interested in leadership. Every month, they have a list of books that they recommend. Here a few from the last months:

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday- We all experience adversity and often look for a way to handle it. Holiday presents how using the philosophy of Stoicism can be a tool for overcoming adversity and achieving success.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown- Lots of us talk about having too much to do and too little time. McKeown’s perspective is that we need to follow The Way of Essentialism and do less but create more quality in our lives.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace- Catmull is one of the co-founders of Pixar Animation Studios as well as co-writer of this book which focuses on the process Pixar used to create unforgettable animation. Catmull and Wallace explain how companies can use the same creativity process.

These are the ones that caught my eye. What’s on your list for summer reading? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, June 27, 2014 and share your recommendations.

How do you choose a “work” book to read? 

What one thing have you learned from a book that moves your business/work forward daily?

What books are you reading right now?

What books are you looking forward to reading over the summer?









Shareholders Aren’t #1 Anymore?

Aspen Institute, shareholder primacy, Steve DenningIt is easy to get into the camp of those who believe that customers should be the primary focus of a business. After all, customers are the ones who spend their money on the products and/or services. Revenue and profit are always good for a company. It seems to be quite fashionable to talk about the customer being the most important person. Yet, you can’t deny the influence Milton Friedmann has had on defining the purpose of a corporation (we touched on it here and it comes up frequently during the live chat). It should be noted that Friedmann’s words have gotten over-simplified to simply state that the sole purpose of any business is to increase its profits. While there is more to his philosophy, there is also the sense that it does not really matter who is running the business as long as customers keep buying and dividends keep getting paid out.

So what are the perspectives on shareholder primacy?

The recent report from the Aspen Institute (worth taking a look at to see the different positions for and against shareholder primacy) lists them.

Arguments for shareholder primacy

  • Restricts powerful senior managers from primarily acting in their own interests
  • Shareholders tend to be long-term investors
  • Stock market is an efficient reporter of information that supports better decision making as it “entails the virtues of simplicity”
  • Everyone benefits when you serve shareholders
  • Provides a useful metric to evaluate corporate performance
  • Acknowledges wide range of owners

Arguments against shareholder primacy

  • Based on two false premises that shareholders are owners and ownership confers a financial obligation
  • Encourages short term decision making and actions
  • May be an outdated and potentially harmful notion in 21st century
  • Majority of shareholders are institutions and thereby not able to provide effective accountability
  • Makes the company the center of the universe
  • Most owners of corporations do not know nor possess the necessary amount of information about the organizations in which they invest
  • A sense of mission creates more wealth than the pursuit of creating more wealth for shareholders
  • Shareholder thinking and behavior does not account for natural complexity

The “world’s dumbest idea”?

Steve Denning has an interesting discussion about the Aspen Institute report . He’s the one who states that shareholder primacy is the “world’s dumbest idea.” He acknowledges that conventional wisdom puts the emphasis on maximizing shareholder value. If you have read his posts on Forbes, you are probably aware that Denning strongly states that maximizing stakeholder value is misguided and really the customer is where the focus should be.He critiques the report by stating they missed the debate by focusing on “fighting short-termism,”

The substantive debate is not about short-term versus long-term. It’s about whether organizations should operate as money-making machines solely for the benefit of managers and shareholders or as instruments which add value to society.


Despite Denning’s advocacy for the end of shareholder primacy…

Wall Street, business schools and conventional wisdom still heavily influence the focus on who benefits from the profits. Shareholders still hold  primacy. Maybe for larger organizations that are publicly traded, there is more pressure to show quarterly earnings. It seems whatever they do, everyone else does. So, are shareholders still number one or is this idea is on its way out?

What do you think? Should shareholders be the primary beneficiaries of wealth and value creation? Is it really “short-termism” that is creating such a problem? Join us on Friday, June 20, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to see if the purpose of a business is really changing and in what direction.

What is the purpose of a business/corporation? Why?

How does this change our conception of business’ ?

If shareholders still retain the power to hire or fire senior executives, why should the customer’s perspective even matter?




The Hidden Side of Negotiation

Negotiations, negotiating, emotions, nonverbal Negotiations are a frequent event in businesses. Ultimately, both parties want to walk out of the process feeling positive about the agreement. However, finding the details that will produce the mutual agreement is often the most challenging aspect of negotiating.

It starts with the handshake

Most business conversations, whether at a networking event or a negotiation, begins with a handshake. There is some interesting research from Harvard Business School that seems to point out that the handshake is a clue to how the participants view one another as well as the willingness to cooperate. Like many conversations, nonverbal cues are key parts of how the negotiation progresses. There may even be more attunement in negotiations because both parties are keeping information back from one another. Being able to get a feel (literally) for the other person can help foster a positive relationship plus clue you in on their emotional state.

Yet, there can be misunderstanding of the actual term, negotiation

Even when you are attuned to the other person, the discussion may take a form that is more like haggling. According to, the definition of negotiation is “mutual discussion and the arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement.” Haggling is defined as “to bargain in a petty, quibbling and contentious manner.”  According to Jeff Weiss, going into a negotiation in an adversarial manner is simply haggling because the focus is on the “win” and downplays the possibility of relationship. Like most things, there is a time and place for everything and haggling (or positional bargaining) is simply one choice. But Weiss says something else about the difference that is interesting,

Positional bargaining rewards stubbornness and deception; it often yields arbitrary outcomes; and it risks doing damage to your relationships. Most importantly, it causes you to miss the opportunity to get more value out of the negotiation than you originally expected. In other words, you won’t be creative and find ways to expand the pie because you’ll be so focused on exactly how to divide it up.

If every bargaining conversation is haggling, you run the risk of alienating customers, potential outside collaborators and colleagues/co-workers. It may be a more difficult discussion because you have to think beyond your own wants, needs and position but the discipline and preparation involved may yield more satisfactory results for everyone. The key is to know when to haggle and when to negotiate.

And then there are those pesky emotions

Weiss’ point about knowing when to haggle and when to negotiate point out how we can let our emotions run our behavior. When the stakes are high, it is much easier to get sidetracked by emotions. Shirli Kopelman goes into more depth about how emotions can work to the mutual benefit of both parties. She writes that positive and negative emotions can inform you about the nonverbal aspects, how they are helping or hindering and if there is any advantage to amplifying them. Interestingly, there seems to be a bias against emotions as there seems to be a perception that they cannot serve you in negotiations. But perhaps it is more of a misunderstanding that anything else. When we describe someone as emotional, we are noticing that they are in the thrall of frustration, sadness, anger or other intense emotions. This will certainly hinder the negotiation process. But even Stuart Diamond, who advocates being dispassionate, acknowledges that empathy and curiosity are powerful emotional tools that can encourage a better discussion and ultimately agreement.

Awareness is the hidden side of negotiations

The handshake, noticing emotions and paying attention to the type of discussion you are having with your counterpart are important ingredients to learning the hidden side of negotiations. It is significant that those lists of tips on how to negotiate better all say something about managing the “soft side” of the discussion. It may be the right time to haggle. It may be the right time to explore more about what is most desired from the negotiation (it may not be the final financial agreement). The awareness is the best tool you can bring into a negotiation.

What do you think? How well do we understand the hidden side of negotiations?  Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, June 13, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.


What is the biggest challenge in a negotiation?

To what degree should you focus on building a relationship before you begin negotiating terms?

How important is cooperation in negotiations? Why or Why not?

What are the risks involved in acting more relationally or authentically during negotiations?


No Customer Engagement, Workplace Sexism & Arguing With Friedman

Twitter, Twitter chat, KaizenBizAbout once a month, we do something different on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. It’s “Bring Your Own Headline”. It tends to be much more wide ranging and quick conversations about business ideas, events or news. What are you reading or viewing that made you stop and think? This week, we are going to move from topic to topic and see what big ideas are popping up. So, check out these stories and bring your own this Friday to the live Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am.

Customers don’t want to engage?

Gregory Ciotti has a provocative post on, “The Shocking Truth: Customers Don’t Want to Engage With Your Company.” Ciotti writes that customers don’t want to have conversations with companies and that a recent Corporate Executive Board study reveals three myths:

  • Myth #1: Most consumers want to have a relationship with your brand.
  • Myth #2: Interactions build relationships
  • Myth #3: The more interaction the better

But…but…but…many marketers tell you to converse with customers on blogs and other social media platforms. However, the research is telling us otherwise. Consumers think with their pocketbooks and values. Ciotti explains that creating brand loyalty comes from understanding what does drive customers to purchase, recommend and repeat. The two biggest driver is the sense of shared values (think Toms Shoes or Harley Davidson). The premise is that consumers will identify with a shared idea or belief and buy.

If customers can suffer from information overload, how much interaction is enough?

Ciotti recommends “making an enemy.’ To what degree do brands invoke a sense of group identity?

Is brand loyalty more likely to occur if a customer receives a discount and/or a sense of money well spent?

 Sexism is more underground?

With the firing of Jill Abramson from The New York Times, there has been discussion about women, gender expectations and the workplace.The conversation never really goes away and Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In has stirred things up as well. According to Rosalind Barnett of Brandeis University, there is a soft war against women going on around us. Fast Company has a recent group of posts that look at various ways women are penalized in the workplace for being…well..women. From the Mommy Tax to entrenched biases discovered through research, it seems that this tension is likely to remain a part of the workplace for the forseeable future.

How are gender roles expressed in the workplace?

What underlies the discomfort when a person acts outside of gender role expectations?

How do traditional gender roles benefit the workplace?

Arguing with Milton Friedman

Economics is one of those subjects that most people consider dry and esoteric. Yet, when we talk about corporate responsiblity, fostering start ups or which regulations should enacted and/or enforced, we are applying economics. Milton Friedman was an avid advocate for capitalism and free markets. He explained in 1970 that “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”"There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” In practice, this means that a company can operate and comply with best practices and laws but not necessarily engage in corporate social responsibility.

According to Roger Martin, there is a problem with the logic of Friedman’s argument. Martin writes that the trade-offs  that Friedman objected to are unfounded and that “100% focus on shareholder value to the exclusion of other societal factors actually produces measurably higher value for shareholders.”  Instead,  Martin offers an Aristotlian perspective that shareholders get greater value when businesses offer excellent customer service, create positive work environments and engage with the community in a sincere and socially responsible way. There may be a straw man in Martin’s argument but there are many questions since the global recession about how free markets should be and if pure capitalism truly benefits all.

According to Friedman, increasing profits within the rules of the game is the one responsibility of business. How is this still true?

What are the advantages of free markets? Disadvantages?

To what degree must corporations live a “virtuous life” or is this more about individuals living this way?

How is our understanding of living a “virtuous life” changing capitalism in 21st century?

Time for your suggestions

The above topics are my suggestions for our lighting roundtable discussion on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz. If something caught your attention this week, bring it the discussion on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT. Remember to include the link and even  a discussion question.


Productivity – Just What ARE We Trying To Do?

productivity, organization, workTime management apps, list making apps, pen and paper, notebooks, sticky notes, ergonomic desks and chairs, quiet rooms…what do all of these things have in common? They are some (and only some) of the things people use to increase their productivity. While work productivity is an age-old and ongoing quest, there seems to be something curious going on with the current concept of productivity.

Is it the fault of Lean thinking, the Great Recession or something else?

There has been this line of thinking of somehow producing products, services or results with as few resources as possible. Some of this comes from Lean. And yet, more and more companies are trying to do more with less. There are workplace and technological trends that encourage this way of behaving. Nearly everyone has a smart device so it is easy to stay connected and work in other settings beyond the traditional office. So, if there are more tools and ways to be productive, why are there so many blog posts (yes, I’m guilty of writing those posts too) explaining how to be more productive?

The usual obstacles

One of the most frustrating obstacles is when you have to wait for someone else to complete a task before you do your next part. But there are some that are more personal like fatigue, procrastination, impulsively checking email or social media streams, illness, stress overload, multitasking, distractability and inattention. Organizationally, you may find your productivity hampered by poor communication, inconsistent policies, lack of coherent action plans, lack of appropriate resources and poor management.

Something more in play here?

I call it the “Cult of Productivity” but it could easily be the “cult of doing” or the “cult of business.”  There seems to be this mindset that we must be busy doing. Somehow we are all being encouraged to act like workaholics regardless of how high or low we are in our organizations. This ignores the growing body of research providing reasons and correlations as to why working excessive hours and days is counterproductive and unhealthy. According to study in Pakistan by Subha Imtiaz and Shakil Ahmad of COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, “Stress results in high portion of absence and loss of employment. The ratio of stress affectees in organization are increasing on alarming rate which effects both the employee performance and goal achievement.” Their findings are similar to results in North American & European-based research.It’s as if an infection is growing globally that is putting pressure on every one to remain at work or that blurs the lines between work and personal time. This Cult of Productivity affects not only the bottom line but hurts people’s lives.

Just what are we trying to do?

Workers at all levels of an organization are often expected to have high workloads and tight deadlines. Work is getting done. But if we stop to look at productivity, what kind of philosophy or mindset is pushing all of us to work as constantly as possible?

Productivity – do we really know what we are doing? And why? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How do we define a “good day’s work” in 2014?

What does productivity really mean if many of us are knowledge workers?

What kinds of observations have you made about productivity obstacles?

Who sets the “rules” for how we define productivity?

If we spend so  much time “doing” and fretting about doing, how are we changing what a productive life looks like?




Looking Under the Hood of Corporate Culture

corporate culture, ethics, society, businessCorporate culture has been coming up quite a lot lately in our #KaizenBiz conversations. When you look at ideas about leadership, marketing, strategy and other business ideas, culture is usually not far from the surface. There is a lot written about what a corporate culture ought to be like and how it should include social responsibility and foster positive human dynamics. For the most part, leaders want to see their organizations live out their most cherished values. Chick-Fil-A is often cited as an example of this as they close on Sundays. Toms Shoes is famous for its “one for one” model of buying their shoes, eyewear or apparel and helping someone in need. Zappos is another example where they hire for character and pay people who don’t fit their culture to leave.

Pixar’s lesson

There is a great book excerpt on the McKinsey and Company blog by Ed Catmull about how Pixar eventually developed a positive and creative culture. Catmull explains that he and John Lasseter consciously designed a culture that was respectful of everyone in the organization. By making themselves accessible and role modeling their expectations, they thought they had created a culture that mirrored their desire. Then they found that there was this huge rift between the production and creative departments. The people in the production department felt like second-class citizens and the people in the creative department felt micromanaged. Catmull’s lesson, he writes, was that “[b]eing on the lookout for problems, I realized, was not the same as seeing problems.”  Same culture, different experiences.

Just because it’s part of your business model…

Catmull and Lasseter set up a business model in which communicating with management was encouraged (or so they thought and report rectified). In an HBR post by Jim Dougherty, it is recommended that the business model and culture be seen as connected. In the way a company externally and internally communicates and behaves with one another reflects both the business model and culture. This makes culture more of a social construct. A group of people come together and form a mini-society. It might be a highly dysfunctional mini-society with backbiting and a hostile work environment but this is a social construct. There are rules, norms and ethics. As in, this is how we do things here. It is communicated overtly and subtly from the onboarding process all along an employee’s worklife with that company.Think of messages like “we hold information back, we take time to have fun playing foosball and drink beer, ask Jane because she knows where the skeletons are, we do anything and everything to satisfy a customer,” or ” we never talk to Them.”

Different lenses affects ethics

Aiming to be the best company is an admirable and understandable goal. I don’t think anyone founds a business and consciously chooses to make it a miserable, soul-sucking place. Some founders don’t think past “let’s get the work done” and set up an environment that later becomes unworkable and unlivable. For other leaders, hiring the best candidates may support a culture of excellence but it may leave other aspects unexamined. There is also the moment when a company has grown so large that it takes far more effort to communicate and exemplify the preferred culture. People may fill in the gaps with their own ethical code or create a separate code from the prevailing culture. As an example, it may be encouraged to meet a certain type of quota by a deadline. The way the quota is met can range from complying with the overall culture or it may deviate into a utilitarian sub-code. A company’s culture is often an expression of how the people in it view one another and the whole of humanity as well as the value of wealth and success. These various lenses become drivers in organizational decision-making

This is such a brief overview of corporate culture and brings up more questions than it answers. So many of us think we know what the perfect corporate culture looks like. The question is, is it the same idea for everyone? It may be that one leader of an organization goes around acting like some kind of chieftain while another leader may act as facilitator or collaborator. One employee might view it is the totality of a social life while another employee just wants to get the work done and go home. Corporate culture could very well be dynamic as an organization grows and people come and go.

What really makes up corporate culture? Is it a mini-society with complex relationships and mores? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

How relevant is the company culture to creating revenue?

How does corporate culture reflect society in general?

With so many competing agendas, how likely is it for companies to foster a common understanding of who they are internally?

What role do ethics play in the expression of corporate culture?



Do Humans Get In the Way of Innovation?

innovation, execution, companies, human behaviorUnicorns, those wild magical beasts in folklore are sought for their healing properties and because they are so elusive. Rather like the quest some companies are on regarding innovation. Innovation is supposed to be the sustainer and life saver of companies. But there is something gumming up the works…there are humans in the way.

Why is innovation so hard?

A question with quite a few answers but we might be missing something crucial. People create innovation. People talk about innovation. We have talked about it on our Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz many times.

Is the work of innovation too boring?

There are many possibilities here ranging from individual behavior to breakdowns in the process. According to Tom Agan, companies are spending too much time ideating. As in, spending a part of or even an whole day coming up with new ideas for the company. Agan’s point is that time would be better spent on looking at ideas the company already has and then identifying and clarifying the best ones for the company to implement.

Another perspective is put forth by David Hasell. He writes that “the secret  path to innovation” lies with the reticular activation system (also known as the extrathalamic control modulatory system). This structure in your brain, is believed to be involved in behavioral motivation, mediating the shift from sleep to wakefulness including periods of high attention plus managing the dampening of loud noises and other intense stimuli. Hasell’s premise – if you activate the RAS on a regular basis, people in the company will begin to build an awareness for certain activities and ideas.

Akin to Agan’s point,  have written The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Problem. They ask if the execution part is too “humdrum” and therefore people don’t expect it to be work. In the book, Govindarajan and Trimble posit that people forget and/or dampen their enthusiasm when it gets to the implementation part of of the innovation process.

What if it’s really about how we understand ourselves and the way organizations are collectively “us?”

On an individual basis, there are many reasons people don’t follow through. In a parallel fashion, implementing an idea is much like goal completion. Some possible theories why organizations don’t execute their ideas well:

  • Too busy fantasizing: Research has shown that people get so caught up in the fantasy of what the result of their efforts will be that they neglect to do the work. The team that held the ideation session were so excited and enthusiastic that they got caught up in the dream.
  • People may misunderstand the business goals and/or the process or not want to change the status quo: Poor communication can derail a project before it has started. It may even be that certain revenue streams are still performing well so there isn’t enough motivation to explore something new.
  • Fear of unknown: The process of innovation is experimental by nature. You don’t know if a new product, service or process improvement is really going to work or make money. Without high-level sponsorship, the idea will remain an idea.
  • Mistrust of leadership: Ideas may not get implemented because it is perceived as a fad or chasing a dream.
  • Too robotic: Psychological research has discovered that a lot of our everyday behavior is robotic. People in companies may get caught up in the everyday work and not connect it to the innovation process, thereby, losing motivation and meaning.

Stop chasing the unicorns

There are probably more reasons why companies fail in their efforts to innovate. It makes sense to learn more about human behavior and then prepare an implementation process that takes the idea beyond the talking stage. Given that it is hard to know when something is going to truly disrupt the marketplace, paying greater attention to how new ideas get transformed into tangible things…the human thinking, feeling and acting…will make the innovation process cleaner.

How does human behavior play a role in the innovation process? Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, May 2, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT to add your insights and expertise to our conversation.

What are your top 3 reasons why innovation is working well in organizations?

How could ratcheting down the rhetoric about the necessity to be innovative actually encourage more innovation?

Ideas only become innovations when they are implemented. Could the day-to-day work of executing an idea be off putting as it is not as sexy or stimulating as ideating?

How would understanding how our brains work and human behavior help companies get over the hurdle of executing their great ideas?

What would you put in place to bring ideas into actual products or services?